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The gas logs that will sit in your fireplace are part of a system that will create a realistic, dancing flame once you turn it on.

The system includes the logs, the burners and the control that allows you to turn the unit on and off or regulate the size of the flame. Most manufacturers sell the pieces as sets but give you the option of mixing and matching.

1. Choose your logs. Reusable cement gas “logs” come in dozens of styles, from driftwood to grand oak. Some feature logs that are long and thin; others are short and thick. Sizes range from a few inches to a few feet long. Colors range from deep, muddy brown to worn grays to modern white.
The length of the logs is important, of course, because they have to be short enough to fit in your fireplace. The color and style are important because that’s what you’ll see whenever you’re not burning a fire in the hearth. You can’t really see the logs while the fire is burning.

You can also add twigs, embers and pine cones to scatter around and on top of the logs for a more authentic look.

 2. Choose the burners. Choosing the logs is not your most important design decision.  In fact, the burners contribute more to the realism of the fire than the logs.   Rosie recommends that you spend most of your time—and money—on the burners. Buy a system with as many burners as you can afford.

Rosie’s mom chose an Eiklor log system with five burners. The dancing yellow flame is so realistic that visitors to the house believe it’s a wood fire.

It’s the burners, not the logs, that create the flame. So placing multiple burners under the logs will create more realistic flames that spread over and around the logs.   When you buy burners, you get what you pay for. Cheap, single-burner systems don’t create fanciful, realistic fires. Multiple-burner sets do a much better job.  

3. Choose the control. The “valve” or control allows you to turn the fire on and off. Some also let you raise and lower the level of the fire.

Your fireplace retailer will show you all kinds of options, from a “light switch” next to the fireplace that controls the unit to a more expensive remote control that works just like your TV remote. The more options the control has, of course, the more you’ll pay for it. Choose the bells and whistles that suit you.

Rosie’s tips to help you choose the best gas log systems:

  • Pick out logs based on how well they will match your home décor.
  • Chose a burner that will make the fire look how you want it.
  • Don’t buy a log and burner set until you see it in action. Ask the retailer to show you the set when it’s lighted—or at least to show you pictures of a “burning display”—that shows the logs blazing in all their glory. That’s the only way you’ll know if the flame flickers or roars to your satisfaction.
  • Let the retailer install the logs for you. The professionals there know how to position every log, ember and pine cone so the arrangement looks more like real wood.
  • Check out the newest gas fireplace “logs”: They look like rocks instead of wood. This is the latest creation by gas log manufacturers. Fully lighted, the arrangement looks like a fire trickling underneath a cluster of river bed rocks.  

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